Wales’ waste of James Hook is shameful – Mark Ring
FORMER ace Mark Ring is calling on Wales to start with James Hook and slammed his continued selection on the replacements’ bench as “shameful”.
The Perpignan star has played just 19 minutes of rugby during Wales’ Six Nations campaign so far after coming on as a substitute against Ireland and Italy.
Hook’s old Ospreys rival Dan Biggar is preferred to the 27-year-old at outside half once again for tomorrow’s clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.
And he finds his path to starting in the centre blocked by the preference for the beefy Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies midfield axis.
The gifted Hook will probably play another cameo role this weekend, finding himself among the replacements for the Scotland showdown.
He has been messed around for much of his 69-cap career, in and out of the starting XV, even shunted to full back at one stage.
Ring, won 32 caps between 1983 and 1991 at both fly half and centre, believes his talent is being wasted.
He stressed he understood Wales’ dogged away triumphs in France and Italy were vital, the first in Paris halting an eight-match losing streak which included a defeat in their Six Nations opener at home to Ireland.
But the ex-Cross Keys attack coach, now with Cardiff, would like to see Wales adopt a more daring approach and have Hook starting at either 10 or 12.
“The most important thing on the back of several losses, with confidence being at a bit of a low ebb, was to get a victory,” he said.
“In the first game of the Six Nations Wales came back well in the last quarter and caused Ireland quite a few problems.
“You hear the term a lot, but winning ugly after that was just what the doctor ordered.”
The former Cardiff and Pontypool player added: “Wales have a style and play a certain way and Jamie Roberts is important cog in that and they’ve had a lot of success on the back of that.
“I prefer a different style and Jamie wouldn’t necessarily be my man in that position.
“I think having someone like James Hook on the bench for the entire Six Nations is a disaster but that’s the way it is.
“I’d like to see Lee Byrne in at 15, Leigh Halfpenny on the wing and Alex Cuthbert on the other, George North at 13 and Hook at 12.”
Ring added: “I’m not Dan Biggar’s biggest fan and if you are going to play Jamie Roberts, I’d pick Hook at 10.
“I have always rated Hook a much better fly half.
“It’s a crying shame that a guy with that kind of talent has to sit on his backside in the stand for the duration. It’s shameful, I think.”
Ring predicts this weekend’s clash in Edinburgh could well turn out to be a classic encounter.
“It’ll be very difficult for Wales but Murrayfield is one of the easiest pitches to play on because the crowd is set back and you seem to have more time on the ball,” he said.
“It’s not like the old Lansdowne Road, which seemed to be a venue where the game would be riddled with mistakes and tension.
“I’m anticipating a bit of a cracker and Scotland under Scott Johnson will try and play.
“Wales won a Grand Slam with Scott on the back of turnovers and using them well.”